A memorable episode of The Simpsons almost never made it to air because of its gay storyline.
In the 1997 episode “Homer’s Phobia”, Homer is forced to confront his own prejudices after he finds out new family friend John, voiced by gay filmmaker John Waters, is gay.
Homer immediately panics, afraid son Bart will also “turn” gay. After a series of hilarious events including a visit to a “gay steel mill” and an all-male camping trip, Homer comes to embrace John and vows to accept Bart regardless of his sexuality.
The progressive episode would go on to win an Emmy and a GLAAD Award, but it was almost banned from even being made by a censor at the show’s network Fox.
In a fascinating interview with website The Ringer, the showrunners at the time, Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, spoke about the pushback they received from the censor.
They explained that typically when a script was submitted for approval, the censor responded with only a few notes.
But on “Homer’s Phobia,” Oakley recalled, they got three pages containing dozens of notes that concerned “every single thing in the episode that had to do with being gay or the word ‘gay.’”
It ended with: “The entire subject and content of this episode is unacceptable for air.”
“They didn’t want anything to do with it from A to Z,” Oakley said.
Instead of shelving the script, the showrunners just ignored the censor and pushed ahead.
“Over the next 10 months, we just kept our fingers crossed,” Oakley said.
And they got lucky: the president of the network stepped down, and Oakley and Weinstein said they assumed that also meant a new censor. When they submitted the episode again, the only comment they got back was: “Acceptable for broadcast.”
And the rest is history.
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